“I didn’t want to be another Me Too,” says Hugh Dantzer, creator and owner of InstaDeck, a patented component deck system.
As a local general contractor who dabbled in supplying building materials to Asia, Dantzer recognized a void when it came to backyard decks that could be installed by the average homeowner.
Twenty years later, he stands on the realization of his dreams, business card in hand, marketing his concept to the crowd at Edmonton’s 2003 Renovation Show.
Consumers can choose from one of five sizes of decks, costing from $995 to $1,595, and have it shipped to their home conveniently packaged on one or two pallets.
Utilizing a level, hammer, wrench and drill, the deck can be assembled with the aid of full-colour instructions. If that’s not enough, an instructional video is also available.
|Kenton Friesen photos, Business Edge|
|Deck master Hugh Dantze shows off his wares. Below, right: Shell Busey dispenses advice from his portable booth.|
Metal telescopic posts, similar to those used in basements, are used as a foundation for the deck.
No concrete need be poured because the posts can be adjusted if the ground shifts.
The wood used is pre-cut and pre-drilled and then pressure treated – an advantage over cutting and drilling pre-treated wood on site (which either leaves untreated ends exposed or requires post-construction treatment application).
Currently, InstaDeck is marketed directly to the consumer, but Dantzer has set his sights on the big store market, eager to limit his involvement to the manufacturing and wholesaling of the product.
Colleague Don Gottfried is convinced the appeal of simple, do-it-yourself solutions, like the deck, will become increasingly popular as the number of tradespeople dwindles and waits for construction projects grow even longer.
“We’re ready now to go large-scale,” says Dantzer. Just as new ideas evolve, old ones become new again.
At least, that’s what Mike and Annett Mosher of Mayerthorpe are hoping.
When a relative wanted real stone applied to her home, the Mosher team, which includes a stone mason, took up the challenge. Never having explored the possibilities before, they hit the river bed to find suitable rocks, cut them in half with a diamond blade and started installing.
They didn’t stop until 1,700 sq. ft. of the home was covered in stone, including much of the exterior, the kitchen backsplash, a bathroom wall and a massive fireplace.
Now, they’re testing the market in Edmonton to see what kind of demand exists.
Menno Zacharias of Designer Stone, a manufactured stone producer from Saskatchewan, admires the idea, but says most people can’t tell the difference between fake and the real thing.
And the idea of finding and cutting stones sounds more labour-intensive than pouring concrete into molds.
Zacharias has bet his entire future on the success of his particular brand of ‘stones’ and he’s counting on the Alberta market to come through. He says homeowners here accept new products two to three years earlier than in the more-conservative Saskatchewan.
But the West Coast may pre-empt Alberta when it comes to keeping pace with innovation.
At the very least, Shell Busey of Vancouver stays a step or two ahead of the rest. The deep, soothing tones of his voice roll off the airwaves, delighting those in need of advice about mould in their basement or stains on their ceiling.
Fifty-six radio stations across British Columbia carry his home-oriented dialogues, and his message is reaching an increasing number of stations across Western Canada (including Edmonton’s 630 CHED and QR77 in Calgary.)
But where Busey is broadcasting from on any given day is anyone’s guess.
Computer illiterate but technologically savvy, the man who aspires to become “Western Canada’s home improvement information source” (if that’s not already his title) totes a portable broadcast booth wherever he goes.
The Scoop Reporter II (SRII) has become Busey’s best friend on the road. “I needed something that would give me a leash for when I go on the road to do home shows,” he says.
And for a guy committed to doing all his shows live, he now has the freedom to travel wherever a phone jack can be found.
While in Edmonton at the renovation show, the SRII (which dials into his home station in Vancouver with as crisp a sound as if he was seated at his desk) allows him to broadcast from a corner in the show office rather than running back and forth between a local radio station and the Northlands Agricom.
Within five minutes of his radio show ending, Busey can be seen, microphone in hand, doling out home-efficiency guidelines and solving marital disputes in front of a packed crowd at the reno show.
What happens when a husband tries to argue with his wife that it’s more cost-effective to lower the thermostat to 10° C at night?
(In fact, lowering the thermostat more than three degrees cools the home’s fabric, requiring extra energy to reheat in the morning.)
“He’s gonna pay the bills. It’s just that easy,” says Busey, using his trademark expression.
That’s 42 years of experience in the construction industry speaking. Don’t mess with it.